Following the publication of the latest DEFRA waste and recycling data, Richard Kirkman, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Veolia UK and Ireland has welcomed signs that growth is starting to be decoupled from waste generation.
The key points of the document, Statistics on waste managed by local authorities in England in 2018/2019, are:
• The official England ‘waste from households’ recycling rate was 44.7 per cent in 2018, down 0.5 percentage points from 45.2 per cent in 2017. Metal recovered and then recycled from waste that has been through incineration (IBA metal) added approximately 0.9 percentage points to the recycling rate in 2018.
• In 2018, total ‘waste from households’ decreased to 22.0 million tonnes, a 1.8 per cent decline from 2017, in which it was 22.4 million tonnes. This is equivalent to 394 kg per person, down from 403 kg per person in 2017, a decrease of 2.2 per cent.
• The amount of residual waste treated was 12.2 million tonnes, down from 12.3 million tonnes in 2017. This was a decrease of 0.9 per cent.
• The amount of total waste recycled also decreased. In 2018, it was 9.8 million tonnes, down from 10.1 million tonnes in 2017. This was a decrease of 3.0 per cent.
• The amount of dry material recycled was 5.9 million tonnes in 2018, down slightly (51,000 tonnes or 0.9 per cent) on 2017. The tonnage of separately collected food waste sent for recycling was 414 thousand tonnes, an increase of 7.1 per cent from 386 thousand tonnes in 2017. ‘Other organic’ waste sent for recycling was 3.6 million tonnes, down a more substantial 0.3 million tonnes or 7.2 per cent on 2017. This is the lowest tonnage of ‘other organic’ waste sent for recycling since 2013 and had a significant impact on the overall recycling rate.
• There is an EU target for the UK to recycle at least 50 per cent of waste generated by households by 2020. The ‘waste from households’ figures outlined here for England make a significant contribution to UK estimates, which are published in the UK Statistics on Waste.
• The rolling 12-month ‘waste from households’ recycling rate was 45.1% at the end of March 2019. This is an increase of 0.3 percentage points compared with the previous 12-month period. These figures include IBA metal.
Commenting, Kirkman said:
“In times of economic growth waste has reduced showing we are finally decoupling growth and waste. It's good to see recycling figures are on the increase without any new incentives put in place over the last 10 years.
“That's why DEFRA came forward in 2018/19 with the most progressive and exciting Resources and Waste strategy for a decade. This proposed strategy will deliver something which is both popular with the electorate as well as a significant win for pressing on to solve the climate emergency.
“A new dawn of awareness for recyclable materials is upon us, one where we finally transform the landscape with real scalable deliverable circular economy solutions, everyone moving to schemes like the recycling of 300million plastic bottles in East London or 100,000 tonnes of glass in St Helens straight back into raw materials.
"Veolia welcome the proposals put forward in the last year and we call to action all those businesses that have a wastestream they don't currently recycle or a product they haven't designed for recycling to welcome this transformation, support the Government's agenda around waste and resources and allow a level playing field for all companies to deliver their sustainable ambitions.
“We need design of products and packaging to allow better choices to be made, we need new infrastructure - and our sector is ready to inject £10 billion, and we need consumers to be given the most convenient and cost effective choice as also the best planet choice. I can't see any reason we wouldn't do this now.”
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